Under-Horse 'spend a Buck' Has the Last Laugh with a Victorious Run for the Roses

UPDATED 05/20/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/20/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

Well, shucks, you'd laugh too if you were about to run wire-to-wire in front of your pals in the 1985 Kentucky Derby. And chances are you'd have plenty of company in the old guffaw department after the race—like your owner. In this case it was Dennis Diaz, the son of a Florida dairy farmer and a retiree from a successful real estate and insurance business. Very successful, since Diaz managed to quit four years ago at the tender age of 38.

Then Mr. Diaz started getting bored. "I fished a lot, dove a lot, boated a lot—and made Johnny Walker Red about a quarter of a million dollars richer," he says. So in 1983 he bought some land and began to try his hand at horse racing. He also bought Spend a Buck (our friend above) at a bankruptcy sale for $12,500—scarcely mule feed these days in the sport of kings.

Spend a Buck developed two habits: biting people and winning races, usually in that order. In fact, the former became a harbinger of the latter, and on Derby Day Mr. Diaz was understandably upset when his colt hadn't put the bite on anybody. Then, happily, the three-year-old bay sank his teeth into a pony girl who was leading him across the paddock. Whereupon he went out and ran in the third fastest race in Derby history, winning by the biggest margin (5¼ lengths) since 1946. Diaz got $406,800 in prize money, and Spend a Buck got another good laugh. Oh, yes, the pony girl was given $100 for services rendered. She only smiled.

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